31.10.07

And now you are 6

And you are all grown up. This last week has been peppered with phrases like, "But I'm eating my dinner Mom because I'm six, and six year old boys know how to eat their dinner." This of course is said in great seriousness while you are polishing your halo so that I notice the brief second during which you are better behaved than your sister.

And while you are grown up enough to do your own school work and put on your own shoes, and bathe and dress and, I still enjoy this one, wipe your own bottom, and wipe up the puddles around the toilet and get yourself your own breakfast, though I don't know if scarfed granola bars and the occasional secret scoop of ice cream you try to get away with instead of muesli really count as breakfast, you still need to sit in my lap sometimes and get hugs and kisses. It's so strange to hold your long bony muscled body that smells of sweat and faintly of pee and remember the tiny baby who stole my heart 6 years ago.

I'm sometimes at a loss when confronted with your boyish otherness. You are a lot like me, but you are a boy too, and nothing like me at all. You have it in you to tease and sneak and engage in secret missions in a way that I find baffling. When faced with a pair of scissors you find yourself with them in hand, looking for something to cut. Like the time last year when you crept up behind me and cut a slit in my favorite, and only Gap sweater. It think it was probably a combination of the sneaking and cutting that caused it to be such an alluring target. Or the time last week when you cut a square out of the new tablecloth with scissors. I only paid $2.50 for it, but still, this tendency toward the destructive makes me want to scream.

You are also trying out sarcasm, without really understanding irony you stand and say over and over the opposite of what you mean. Until I figured out what was going on I just thought you were being profoundly disrespectful and we kept butting heads. Now we can just talk about when it's appropriate to try those things, which is less unpleasant.

For all of our foibles, I've never parented a six year old boy before, and you've never been one, I think you are fantastic. And sweet. I still get a kick out of your drawings, they get more detailed and creative every day. I like it when you sing and play and tell me you want to be a music teacher when you grow up, and teach your children to play "pliano" too. But sometimes you will leave them at home with your wife and go to work; where you will teach other kids how to play piano too. You would be good at it, you are a good teacher and very encouraging. Not a day goes by when you don't tell me that I am doing a good job. "Good job getting me that cheese I asked for mom, thank-you."

Being your mom is a pretty rewarding job. You learn fast, you are eager to please, you remember instruction, you are often polite and well-behaved. And I do my best to let you run wild sometimes, tearing around with guns and swords while yelling fiercely to intimidate your enemies. I'm trying to let you be a boy. I keep running into people though who think that it's not okay to be a boy and that even running around the park and roaring shouldn't be allowed. You've had to learn not to just randomly walk up to strangers and roar in their faces, something it never occurred to me you might need to learn before you did it, but I try to let you be a boy as much as possible.

You are not the kind of learner who is okay with making mistakes. You wait to try something until you have thought it over for an indeterminate amount of time and then, when you are ready, you just do it. Your first try on a two wheeled bicycle was a success. This summer one day you informed me that you didn't need water wings any more and jumped in the deep end. I stood at the side waiting to fish you off of the bottom of the pool, but I never needed to. You've been swimming ever since. This tendency of yours holds you back sometimes, like when you won't try something because you don't understand how it works yet. Just like me, you want to avoid the school of experience and get things right the first time. But reading doesn't work like that, often, neither does music, or life. You have to be willing to make a few mistakes in order to get to the beautiful sounds, the fluent reading. You have come so far in that this year and I'm really proud of you. I know what kind of mental obstacles you need to overcome in order to be brave enough to try when failure is a possibility.

I like watching your creativity blossom. Even when it involves duct taping all the pencil crayons I bought you for school together to make guns to play with. Really, I would have never thought of that.

You love it when I read to you before bed and your mind actively chases down minor plot points and characters wondering why the author didn't furnish us with motivation or context for them. I love that you are so analytical, and yet you drive me crazy. You are my son, I understand you better than you might know, we are cut from the same piece of cloth you and I.

I'm thankful for all that you are. When I tell you I like you when I'm tucking you in at night sometimes you want to know why. Sometimes I don' t know what to say, can't pin down a specific point of light in the galaxy of things that form the being that is you. I like you because you are you. You are joyful, funny, serious, exuberant, generous, and grateful. You are a bright light in my life and I will always love you. Even when we butt heads I still love you.

I bless you this year to grow in confidence, to try, and be free to make mistakes, to learn more deeply to act with compassion and to be brave and trust, even though life holds no assurances of the outcome.

Here is the first movie mommy has ever tried to make. When you are all grown up and technologically savvy, be gentle, remember that I love you. The end
video

28.10.07

A Truly Wonderful Sight

There, the view from my door, do you see those? Those are real clouds in the sky, not smoke. And notice also that everything is still standing. The ash has been washed away and life continues as normal. Except we're all exchanging stories of our adventures this past week running from the fire.
This is rain. It's been raining. Happy day. The air still smells of smoke, but it's more like what it smells like when you are camping, instead apocalyptic type ash blotting out the sun. The kids can play outside again.
I didn't even think to take a before picture when I was cleaning up my patio. It was a huge mess. But I can now say with authority that mint does not like hot dry conditions and no water for a few days. That used to be a full pot, and now it's mostly dead.

We came home on Friday, and I've been busy putting things right, and wondering how a whole week could disappear like that out from under me. Today we went to the beach after church and spent hours just playing in the surf and breathing the fresh air, and being thankful for all of it.

There have been some really great moments and stories coming out of the past week. My friend, who volunteered to assist the firefighters, (he brought them food and since he's a caterer I'm pretty sure it was well appreciated) told me that at one of the evacuation centers he was near, they had more volunteers who showed up to help than people being evacuated. My neighbor took his family to Qualcom stadium and told me that they had Yoga classes, free massages, and dozens of other activities and food lined up. He said that nights were stressful though with three little girls and an air mattress, he found it especially hard to sleep.

Our pastor this morning told us that on Monday morning he was getting calls from churches all over the country asking how much money the people of his congregation would need to rebuild, and others were ready to organize work crews to come out this week and start the rebuilding process. It's amazing. Really.

1500 homes were lost, and 3 lives, the last count I heard. I think it is a blessing, considering how large these fires were that it was only three. Two were people who refused to evacuate, and one was a firefighter, I think.

I am grateful that we didn't lose everything, neither has anyone else that I know. And I'm cheered by the thought that those who lost their homes have a lot of support and that they got out in time. I grateful to the fire fighters who have worked so hard to save us all from devastation, and those who have been injured and those who died. But they all knew when they headed out on Monday morning that it could happen to them. So I thank them all for doing their job well.

I find myself suddenly less attached to this place, this stuff. I'm suddenly less overwhelmed at the thought of change, of moving forward, in different directions. When it was distinctly possible that it would all be gone, and the fire did come within 2 miles of our house before it stopped, it was easy to realize that the things I care about the most were right beside me. My children, my husband, our family. I was just glad we were safe. I don't yet know if it changes happen, but when/if it does, I think I'll be ready.

23.10.07

From One Haven to Another

Last night before we went to sleep the wind was calm, but we could see red glowing all along the horizon. (The genius husband informs me that I am an idiot to think that Santa Ana comes from the ocean when it's a desert wind. But it still smells like ocean to me, how weird is that?) We woke this morning to a smoky haze and ash raining down on us.

A neighbor who works at the nearby fire station called to inform us that we were about 1-2 hours away from an evacuation notice. Beema started loading the cars, the men pulled out chainsaws and started cutting back everything growing near the house, and I made chocolate icing.

The freeway heading north was closed yesterday. We joked that the Boy's great grandparent's would have a great excuse to miss his party, what with a brush fire between us and all. But this morning the freeway was open once more, the fire had burned out during the night. The air grew thicker and thicker as the guys cut back more trees and shrubs. Such pretty vines too, but it's better them than the house. So past the fire and over the bridge, to grandmother's house we go...

We took the party to them. Scorched earth lined the freeway as our caravan headed north. In some places we could see the fires still burning, others were eerily untouched, side by side with blackened trees. It's this kind of thing that makes my father in law cut away trees and stand outside with the hose. On the news you can see houses that are flattened, with green shrubs beside them, He watches for a little while, and then goes outside to water some more, and fire up the chainsaw.

The men stayed behind to keep working. They say they can see the fire coming up along the creek when they stand on the carport. There is a police man on a motorbike monitoring traffic from the bridge, but they aren't under mandatory evacuation yet. They've done all they can until the fire draws nearer, and then there's more they can do before they have to leave. They also say they have some good scotch and cigars to occupy the time. (MEN)

The boy had his party and it was sweet. I hope to show pictures soon.

I don't know what, if anything, has happened to our house. All of our city was under mandatory evacuation by late last evening. The only things I regret leaving behind are the quilts that Beema made for the Boy and Girl when they were born. Each square has a blessing or prayer written by friends and family at their baby showers, and I will miss them if they are gone. I think they will too.

As I sit here, in a comfortable house once more, installed in one of the ample spare rooms, I can't help thinking about all of those people who didn't have family to go to outside the danger zone, and are holed up in school gyms and stadiums and sleeping in crowds and eating in crowds and who knows when they'll get a shower. The GH's cousin has been at an evacuation center since yesterday morning with her baby girl.

I am feeling pretty blessed right now, and grateful to be were we are, looking out an upstairs window and watching the smoke from a distance while my children swim in GG's pool, instead of trying to entertain them in a cramped gym that is full to capacity with strangers.

Thanks for your prayers and thoughts. Please keep the people who have lost their homes and are staying at evacuation centers in your prayers as well, and pray for rain, and wind from the sea.

22.10.07

The Fire is Coming

The wind started late in the day, wild and smelling of the sea, though we are miles inland. We walked in it, reveling in the warm power. It was exhilarating.

At midnight we went out again to smell it, to feel it's warmth push against us in the cool night. Gusts pushed in against the windows, rattling the blinds. We left the windows open to let it in.

I lay in bed listening. Like the distant ocean that sent it always changing, shifting, swirling, in new directions at every breath it blew around us. I feared the wind, it's whisper, "Change is coming, change is coming."

"I'm not ready for change," I thought. "I'm just getting to know this place I am in."

I thought the change was one that we have been discussing, another move, a new direction. I finally fell asleep to the restless shifting of the Santa Ana.

This morning, 7am, two babies asleep on me and the doorbell won't stop ringing. It is the wind, so strong it' s ringing all our bells. There is a large tree down in our parking lot, they are cutting it to move out of the way. The tree right beside us has dropped a big branch. I drift back to sleep.

The phone rings. Pulling me from restless slumber. Do I know that the county is on fire?

I look out at the sky, the sun glows neon orange through the thick haze of smoke. We start packing. I want the photo albums, and my computer, water and food. The thick air makes us cough now, and ash gets in my eyes. The Baby is crying. I remember the Boy's birthday party is tomorrow and pack the presents, and the soup I've been making. He wanted chicken noodle. We stop for gas, and cake ingredients and head to where the sky is clear and we can see the sun.

Now we sit, fire on every side of us, burning down the valleys and canyons, if it jumps the freeway to our valley than we will have to leave too. The wind keeps changing, spinning in huge circles, confounding firefighters and planners alike. Most of our friends have already left their homes behind. Seventy homes in our town have burned down since this morning. I wish I had taken out that renter's insurance policy I was indecisive about.

I am going to make chocolate cake. I promised. Unless we are evacuated the Boy will have his party tomorrow. We will sleep here tonight at Beema's house while the fire keeps burning.

All that is left to do is wait. They will tell us if we need to leave.

And celebrate the Boy's 6th birthday.

21.10.07

Bye- Bye- Look of Death

Once upon a time, a little over a decade ago, my little sister and I used to sing together. We used to busk at street festivals and events as a sort of fun way to try and pick up cash; sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't. One of the things that people singing together do often is use their facial expressions to talk to each other while their mouths are otherwise occupied with making the right sounds some out. For example if you are singing with someone and it seems to you that they are flat, you might arch your eyebrow at them to make them think higher, you might smile when things work well, and out of a performing habit, and you might scowl if the other person is making mistakes. One fine summer afternoon next to a booth that was selling dresses made from old saris I noticed that my little sister seemed unusually surly. The short version is that she didn't want to sing with me anymore because I was always giving her The Look of Death, a phrase that we had just coined. My response was that she was the one giving me The Look of Death, I was just responding in kind. It turns out that the look of death is reserved for the moments that we each thought we were screwing up terribly and just wanted the other to know that we were aware of our mistake and not think we were a total idiot, not only singing out of turn, but not realizing it. Of course, to the other this looked like the anger was directed toward them, and not at the owner of The Look of Death. Then and there we decided that when we made a mistake, we would smile at the other, and perhaps raise an eyebrow at the same time. Suddenly it was a whole lot more fun to sing and work together, and people started commenting on how much fun it looked like we were having. Which shows you how often we were making mistakes.

It seems The Look of Death was not gone for good however, I noticed it the other day by it's absence when I was talking to the Boy. After a particularly difficult "teaching moment" aha, ahaha, I thought to myself how much I love this boy and smiled at him as I hugged him and we went back into our day. To my astonishment, it was like the sun came out, he capered, and grinned, and was delightful to be around for the rest of the day. Which led me to wonder if I really smile that rarely in settings like that. It seems The Look of Death, the oft inwardly directed scowl has been crossing my face without my knowledge. All of those moments when I feel that I am falling down on the job, when I realize that my failure to be prepared, to make learning certain things easier for my kids by my lack of discipline, all of those things that flood through me when I'm dealing with my children appear on my face. But my children think it's directed toward them.

OUCH

So I have been diligent this week to smile, and perhaps arch an eyebrow at myself instead and I am amazed at the power of a smile. Just looking up and smiling when I respond to them seems to have the power to change an entire mood, more than words, and perhaps even more than time spent snuggling on the couch and reading. Smiling at my kids, whenever I talk to them, seems to make them happier on average than any other thing I can do. Who knew?

They read my face before they hear my words. When my face is clouded, they respond defensively, when it is open and fond, so are they. They are my little mirrors. The language of my body is teaching them more about how I feel about them than I want it to, and so I am consciously changing my body language so they will know they are loved and that I like them, even when I kind of don't because they are naughty, and it's genuinely affecting my attitude as well for the better.

So, I am bidding The Look of Death Farewell. I hope it never comes back.

19.10.07

10 months

I am fascinated by your sounds. You've taken to chirruping around making little trumpeting noises and blowing raspberries. It's adorable. Your daddy said a while ago, wistfully, "She's gonna grow out of that someday."

And you will, your a baby on the cusp of toddler hood, thank heaven you're so tiny and like to snuggle still.

You love to go outside, you love to run away from home and you are really fast now, scary fast.

You charm everyone you meet and you continue to be full of smiles and delight. Oh my goodness how did two such pessimistic people get such a happy baby? You are always happy, it's fun.

And you adore your daddy. I'll have you almost asleep and he'll come home. You'll wake up at the sound of his voice and then yell when he walks away from you until he comes back to play.

You think your big brother and sister are pretty cool too. They carry you around and make you giggle and you get pretty cranky sometimes when you can't find them, or they (gasp) go and play together without you!

Another thing you really like is the grimy little strip at the back of the toilet bowl. You are very fond of running your little finger through the boy pee and grime there and get really angry when I drag you away and wash your hands. The bathroom doors now stay closed at all times to prevent you from your experiments in finger painting.

Here is a little clip I took of you today with your very fast walking and your love of the little red berries that grow nearby. They're not poisonous, but they're a good size to choke on so the framing suffers a little at the end when I wrest the berry from your mouth. I think you are just about the cutest thing ever so here's something for every one to look at and melt over. I love you Baby.
video

15.10.07

"Show us a picture" they said.



Show us what your slings look like. And so I dutifully went through the pictures I have and found this one, which isn't a very good picture at all, and it's of the first sling I ever made and use every day, and never finished sewing the pocket in because, well, I use it every day.

So in response to the tyrants, I mean lovely internet friends, hi Jody, wow it's good to hear from you, I decided that today I would make the sling that I owe to a dear friend and then take pictures of that to show you. But I have this really cool idea for a pocket that is reversible and that turns into a bag that you can tuck the whole sling into when you're not using it. In my mind's eye I would show it to you and you would all say wow, what a great idea, I want one, and I would say, why thank-you, and you are looking very pretty today and what fun this all is. Only I hadn't actually made one yet, only planned it in my head, and the fabric I'm using for my friend isn't the kind I regularly use and it's a one sided print so I spent the better part of the day figuring out this silly little pocket thing. That took way longer than it takes to make the sling. You know, in between feeding people, helping with school, and wiping bums.

The moral of the story is, I need to make the pocket bigger, and I need a better, reversible, zipper and then my cool idea will work out quite well, I think. But alas, I have no pictures for you, because it is now after dark and my flash makes things look icky and I'm not happy with it yet. I'll try again tomorrow, I'm headed to the fabric store anyway.

But I do have some leather to dye (blue) and sew together this week to make a knights tunic so it may be a couple of days. I loved this idea that I found


and I'm totally stealing it for the Boy, for way less than $60 I might add, and I'm making a head thing and sleeves out of silver to look like chain mail too. I'm thinking I'm a sucker for punishment. Especially since his birthday is a week away and I'm just starting.

Thanks everyone who responded for your input, I really appreciate it, I'll try to get pictures soon.

11.10.07

Name that Sling

I am launching a new venture that involves selling the slings I make, instead fo just giving them away to friends and family, which I am happy to do but the GH thinks I should be trying to make money with this, and I agree that there is some potential. I'm actually really excited about this. I've been in contact with some women in Thailand that are from a Karin village in the North where all of the ladies hand weave wonderful bags and shirts and such, and they are going to send me some hand woven samples in the right size for slings so if all works out in addition to the kind I already make, I'll soon be able to offer a line of handwoven slings that will help out the village as well.

So, I have a lovely and talented graphic artist friend who is designing a logo for me, hi megan, and I'm working on business cards as well. It turns out it's really hard to make a logo if you haven't decided on a name yet, which I haven't so here are the top of the list and you can all tell me which you think is best. I'm having the hardest time making a decision.

Sweet Baby Slings-Every mom could use an extra hand.

Mother's Little Helper-Because you didn't grow a third arm when you were pregnant

SuperMom Slings- Because you haven't grown a third arm yet or, Even super mom only has two hands. (Notice the slogan theme? What can I say, I like it.)

Banana Wrap- ummm...haven't thought of one to go with this yet

Many others turned out to be taken like Over the Shoulder Baby Holder, and Cotton Cradle, which I love. Anyway, please vote, or hit me with your best thought, I need to decide soon.

If you want one you can e-mail me, I won't have an internet store up for a while, but I will fill custom orders.

Thanks.

5.10.07

Fearful Peoples Anonymous


Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.
Bertrand Russell
(1872-1970)


Well, back to the regular everyday of life. The booth is down, my laundry patiently waits to be folded. No matter how badly I neglect it it always waits faithfully for me until I can attend to it, like a dog that follows you home and refuses to leave. A half sewn pinafore sits at the table for a birthday gift tomorrow. Three year olds dressed as princesses, it doesn't get any cuter than that.

I had three things on my mind today to blog about. The first was the arrival of the pretty, pretty, pretty, stroller. I love it, I took pictures. The second was idiot drivers who don't look for pedestrians before making right turns, or left turns. I am that woman standing in the middle of a cross walk and yelling at the drivers while pulling up suddenly to keep the person who tries to sneak his turn in before we're across from taking out the front of the stroller. Only today it happened at least five times, there is no describing how angry that makes me without lapsing into obscenities. Then I saw the quote above over at Blog Antagonist's and it's number 3 that you will hear about in depth.

You see I have an acquaintance, I'd say friend but she won't accept my friendship and holds me, and others, at arms length, who is afraid. Perpetually. Today she has made a choice that I think is harmful to her, but not only to her but to the others around her that I care about. A choice like this is never made in isolation but draws into itself everyone that she is relationship with. When your choices are motivated by fear, you often choose poorly, and selfishly.

The thing about fear is that it hides so well in other guises. If you met this person I am talking about you wouldn't walk away thinking to yourself, "Wow, it must be awful to be that terrified." In fact, you might think they were quite normal, a little obsessive perhaps, but normal. You might think to yourself something like, "What the heck? Why is she making such a big deal about the chicken? or the tape, or the muddy shoes on the front doorstep, or the visit of a spouse to see an old friend. That seems a little....off." You may wonder what the deal is, but you may not realize that that person is perpetually terrified. That person themselves doesn't usually realize it either.

It seems perfectly reasonable to them to get upset over someone taking their tape and acting silly and not giving it back right away but teasing them about it. They will tell themselves that what the other person was doing was wrong and disrespectful and irritating and so their reaction of throwing a full blown screaming fit, or bursting into tears, or, or, or, was perfectly acceptable. They don't realize that every one else is looking at them like they are a freak.

Or they may burst into tears and feel miserable and sick for three days because there was a change in plans during a trip, and they have to stay somewhere different, somewhere other than where they planned. Sometimes this sort of thing will cause panic attacks.

They will cling to people they are in relationships with, reacting with inappropriate jealousy when a loved one does something without them, or starts to grow in an area that they had been weak, or changes at all for better or worse. They will stifle and cling and come close to destroying the people around them in an effort to always have them near, always at their beck and call, always taking care of them. This is what it is to live a life of fear.

How would I know this about this other person of whom I speak? Well, it takes one to know one. I have walked far more than a mile in those shoes. It's an awful way to be, or to live.

I will be forever grateful to the woman who brought me through the worst of my journey into freedom. She was a good guide because she had been where I found myself. You see, when you are afraid, you don't know who to trust, what to believe, or what to do. You perspective is completely skewed. You can not make a sane decision when you are afraid, all of your actions will simply be instinctive reactions against a danger you perceive or a pain that you want to avoid and you can not be rational. Oh you can pretend to be rational, you can think that you are rational, you can even sound rational sometimes about many subjects, but when it comes right down to it, you are a bit crazy and you need help.

The places that hold you captive are the places you usually retreat to when you are afraid. They are instinctive behaviors that you believe will protect you and now you can't escape from. Like controlling every detail of every aspect of your life, all of the time. The thing is, you can't do it, especially if there are other people involved, and it's exhausting. When something goes wrong the whole artificial construct that is your sense of safety collapses, and you are left naked and shivering, cowering in terror at the reality that is life around you.

It's messed up. I know. I used to spend my life carefully constructing events to avoid having to deal with reality and my own sense of helplessness at things that are larger and more frightening than I.

The only way to escape those places is to stop going to them. Like paths in a field, they disappear if you stop traveling them, but it's very hard to do without help, without someone else who understands pulling you through. There were days, months even, when the best choice I could make was to do nothing at all. I couldn't let my self do what I usually do to cope, because that was a fear response, but I didn't know what else to do, and so I would sit, on my hands sometimes, and wait, and pray, and repeat, "I trust God, I want to any way, I choose to, oh bother, HELP!" until it passed and I could see more clearly what should be done to reverse things. I know how hard, and lonely, and afraid this person must be feeling most of the time. And I know that they have no idea that they are driving away the people they most want to have near, and that they love. I know they don't understand why every one is starting to hate them for being so small, and I know they don't think they have a choice about how they are behaving. I also know that most of the people around them have no understanding of what this person is going through that causes them to behave so selfishly.

And since, at this point, this person is not even ready to admit that they have a problem to me, let alone let me help, I'm talking to the internet instead. Hello, internet. Perhaps us formerly living in fear people ought to form a support group too, so that we can start to do interventions.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16, 18)

1.10.07

Scenes From Sukkot

If you want to feel like a total idiot, you may want to take a walk with your kids to a vacant treed lot at the far end of the street you live on and pick up dead trees and put them in your shopping cart. That doesn't make you feel like an idiot, because you know why you are doing it and your children love you and haven't yet reached the age of mockery. But the part where you try to pull the extremely heavy cart through the soft dirt of the new construction going on between the lot and the road and get very stuck might, especially when the guy in the truck stares at you quizzically as you struggle to the sidewalk. The stares from people as they pass you in their cars might too, especially as you have to push this awkward and over loaded cart down the center of the road so as to not get stuck on poles and scratch cars.

Then you could try stalking the landscaping crew where you live for several days and pounce when they trim the palm trees, asking them if you can keep the trimmings. This is fun because you don't speak Spanish and they only speak garbled English and when they eventually figure out what you are asking you know they think you are loco. But you are unable to explain yourself to them, so you take your palm fronds back to your patio and pretend that it is all perfectly normal. (Note to self, learn to speak Spanish already.)

Then you could start the process of tying all of these dead trees together into a framework on which to place the scavenged leaves to make a roof. You son will want to help, and will get impatient, so you will hand him a book with pictures and he will start bossing you around and telling you how you should do it. By this time you are sweaty and covered in dirt and want nothing more than a shower.

The neighbors stare as they walk by at the dead tree "monstrosity" that you are making and you smile at them and say hello. And then you get a call from "the office" about half an hour after you have finished constructing your booth and have furnished it, and about one hour before sundown, and the management staff will order you to take it down. You will respond, "But it's for Sukkot." They will reply that it doesn't comply with patio regulations but you are ready for this and you point out that the decorations for Halloween and Christmas which they encourage with contests and cash prizes do not comply with patio regulations either, and you feel that you should be permitted to put up your holiday decorations as well. The surprised person on the other end of the phone will reply, "But it's just a bunch of branches." You will let some annoyance creep into your voice as you reply, "Of course, that's the point, that's what you build for Sukkot, a booth made out of branches." Then you calm down and make judicious use of the words discriminatory practice, religious observance, and lawyer, at the end of which you are allowed to leave the booth up but they aren't nice about it. (You are even ready for the, well you aren't really Jewish, retort. You plan to ask them if they are really Christian and believe in Jesus, and then wonder why it is that they celebrate Christmas. But it doesn't ever come to that.) You spend the next few days feeling like they are swearing at you in the space behind their eyes as they look over at your patio with pursed lips and grim expressions. You write a polite letter explaining the significance of the holiday and thanking them for allowing it. Their response is curt, and barely civil. But it's all worth it because of this...

and this...

and this.

You know memories are being made right now, and traditions passed on, and that makes everything worth it. And later you will go to Beema's house and make little booths out of graham crackers and candy and spend Shabbat with them in their big Sukka. And then you go to synagogue and they have a big hashanot there and you look at your boy as he takes it all in with wonder and turns to you proudly after singing along and says, "I can sing the songs now mommy." And you feel very fond of your offspring and look forward to later this week when we will have a big Simchat Torah party too.

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